Allegories, Symbolism and Dante

Allegories, Symbolism and
Honors English I
 Any object, person, place, or action that
represents something bigger than itself.
 They are all around – flags for the country,
cougars for the students, apples for the
teacher, etc.
 Simply put, an allegory is a story that uses
many symbols to tell a more general story.
So what is the difference between a
symbol and an allegory?
 To be honest, they are extremely similar.
 Everything created (paintings, movies and
yes, even writings) can have one or more
symbols in them, but an allegory is a
collection of symbols that work together
to tell a literal story as well as a deeper
Moving on
 It is one thing to know what a symbol and
allegory is, but it is completely different trying
to interpret them in a passage.
 To help do this a man named Dante Alighieri
invented a Fourfold method to guide your
 Use Dante’s fourfold method to help find
symbols and allegories in stories.
1. Literal/Historical Level
 Everything has this level
 These are the things that are actually
happening – basically what you would put
in a plot diagram
 For example, in regards to the novel Animal
Farm, it literally is about the livestock on a
 In Antigone, the protagonist chooses to bury
his brother despite her uncle’s (the king)
orders not to and therefore risk execution.
2. Political Level
 This level shows how people relate to
others, the community or world.
 Think of any political subjects: rich v. poor,
majority v. minority. These are man v.
society conflicts.
 In Antigone, this level shows that the
protagonist is not just challenging her uncle,
but the overall rule of law and government’s
3. Moral Level
 This level deals with the realm of ethics or
what is right and wrong.
 Internal conflicts usually deal with the moral
 For example, in Antigone, the protagonist
decides to bury her brother because it would
be an inhuman denial of his rights not to.
4. Spiritual Level
 This level deals with how man relates to
fate, destiny and faith.
 Popular examples of allegories with a spiritual
level are the Narnia series.
 Every piece of literature has a literal level.
 Each level can stand on their own or work
Notes are finished!
 Time for the activity!!!